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Marcus Alert Implementation Planning Continues

A statewide stakeholder group has been meeting since January to develop an implementation plan for the new Marcus Alert system established in legislation passed during last summer’s special session.  The legislation seeks to ensure that individuals experiencing behavioral health crises receive a behavioral health response to the extent possible, and a specialized response from law enforcement when necessary.  The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) are leading the state’s implementation efforts, and have convened the stakeholder group to prepare the implementation plan, which is required by the 2020 legislation to be developed by July 1, 2021.  (VACo held a webinar with DBHDS and DCJS staff in December 2020, which provides an overview of the Marcus-David Peters Act; a recording of the briefing may be found at this link.)

In preparing the implementation plan, workgroup members have received briefings from a variety of guest speakers, as well as presentations from workgroup members.  Presentations have included an overview of crisis services in several Community Services Boards (CSBs), a discussion of special considerations regarding the interaction of individuals with developmental disabilities with the criminal justice system, and a briefing on the role of peer supports in serving individuals in crisis.  Information about the workgroup may be found on DBHDS’s webpage dedicated to the Marcus-David Peters Act, available at this link.  Recordings of several community listening sessions held by the workgroup may be found on DBHDS’s YouTube page, available at this link.  Recordings of several workgroup meetings are available on Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter’s YouTube page, available at this link.

In accordance with the new law, the implementation plan must inventory current crisis intervention and mobile crisis teams and other collaborations between Community Services Boards (CSBs) and law enforcement agencies.  As part of this effort, the workgroup is preparing a survey to be sent to CSBs, Crisis Intervention Team programs and Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Centers, law enforcement agencies, and Public Safety Answering Points.

The first set of Marcus Alert programs and crisis teams must be established by December 1, 2021.  The first cohort of CSBs and localities to implement the system are Orange, Madison, Culpeper, Fauquier, and Rappahannock Counties (Rappahannock-Rapidan CSB); Prince William County (Prince William County Community Services); the City of Bristol and Washington County, including the towns of Abingdon, Damascus, and Glade Spring (Highlands CSB); the City of Richmond (Richmond Behavioral Health Authority); and the City of Virginia Beach (Virginia Beach Human Services).  By July 1, 2023, five additional teams must be established, and all CSB catchment areas must be served by a Marcus Alert system by July 1, 2026.  In addition, the legislation requires every locality, by July 1, 2021, to establish a database that is accessible to the 911 system to provide mental health and emergency contact information that may be helpful in responding to a crisis (this information would be voluntarily provided by individuals with certain behavioral health or other conditions or their parents or guardians).  By July 1, 2022, every locality must have established protocols for the diversion of 911 calls to crisis centers and the participation of law enforcement in the Marcus Alert system; the state implementation plan will establish a framework for the local plans.  A summary checklist of local requirements prepared by DBHDS may be found at this link.

The workgroup is scheduled to hold four more meetings.  DBHDS is receiving comments and questions at  All comments received prior to May 16, 2021 will be reviewed by the workgroup.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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